Easy Fresh Homemade Salsa

Easy Fresh Homemade Salsa.

I LOVE salsa!

And this time of year when tomato plants in our gardens are overflowing with more tomatoes than we can eat, it is the perfect time to make fresh salsa.

It is so easy to make and so healthy and versatile for snacking or cooking.  I love dipping tortilla chips in it for snack.  It is also my favorite baked potato topping.  Skip the butter and sour cream for me, and pile on the salsa!  Throw frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts in a crockpot on low, top with a pint of salsa, and ignore it for 8 hours.  Return for a delicious, nutritous main course of Salsa Chicken.

There are gajillion ways to make salsa.  You can add corn and black beans for a heartier twist.  You can add chopped peaches or mango for a sweeter twist.  You can add jalapenos or your favorite spicy, hot peppers if heat is your style!

What are your favorite ways to enjoy salsa?

Here is how I made it this past weekend.

Fresh Homemade Salsa

  • Servings: approx. 6 cups
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  • 4-6 Ripe Tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 10 oz. can Rotel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles
  • 1/2 Large Vidalia Sweet Onion, quartered
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • Fresh Cilantro (or dried) to taste
  • 3 green onions, cut into pieces
  • Juice of a fresh Lime
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or your favorite salt


Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse several times until desired chopped consistency.  Serve immediately or store in a jar or airtight container in refrigerator for up to several weeks.


Cheers & Hugs,


Lemon Butter Chicken

Lemon Butter Chicken 2

We found yet another way to make an easy and oh so delicious chicken dinner this past week.  My son, Nick, actually made this from a recipe he found and we adapted slightly.

lemon butter chicken

He’s been practicing cooking more, and is getting really good (at breakfast and chicken at least!).

He will soon be moving out, and I am trying very hard not to be sad.  I am trying to focus on the fact that we have done a great job in raising our boys to be independent, competent men who have found wonderful partners to share their lives with.

Both of my boys know how to cook and are very handy.  They are smart and kind and generous.  (I’m not partial at all – right?!)   They both have found amazing women who are just right for them, and who we love dearly.

I digress….

Back to the point….   Chicken!

Here is another Winner Winner Chicken Dinner we hope you will try.

Lemon Butter Chicken

Ingredients:Lemon Butter Chicken 2

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Half and Half, Milk, or Cream
  • 1 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt & Lemon Pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cooked Rice to serve with it (I love Jasmine)


Season chicken with salt and lemon pepper.  Heat olive oil in large skillet.  Add chicken and sear until golden and cooked through, about 5-7 mins. per side depending on thickness.  Transfer chicken to a plate and make the sauce.

Add butter to pan drippings and let melt.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add lemon juice and zest and half and half.  Bring to a simmer.  Add cherry tomatoes and basil.  Simmer until thick, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken back to sauce and coat.   Serve over rice.

I’m sure we will be making this one again.

Cheers & Hugs,

Chessy Caprese Tarts

caprese tarts 2

In honor of National Cheese Lovers Day today, (you knew that – right?!) I am sharing a yummy new Cheesy Caprese Tart recipe I made this past weekend for the family while we got together to watch football playoff games.

caprese tarts cut

This recipe could also be great for brunch, lunch or even a light dinner.   It would be a well-received snack to take to a Super Bowl Party too, I am certain!

caprese tarts

Does anything beat ooey, gooey, chewy fresh melted mozarella cheese?!  Especially when topped with sweet juicy tomatoes and some lovely fresh basil?!  And everything is yummy when on top of golden, flaky puff pastry – right?

This recipe is really simple, yet it turns out looking so impressive, you are going to be a Cheese Lover’s ROCK STAR when you make this!

Caprese Puff Pastry Tarts

  • Servings: depends on how hungry you are!
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Ingredients:caprese tarts 2

  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh ripe Campari  (my favorite!) or cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Roll out the puff pastry sheet and cut into four squares.  Top with sliced fresh mozarella and then sliced tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste.  Bake in 375 degree F oven for approximately 15 minutes or until puff pastry begins to puff and turn golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbly brown.  Remove from oven and top with freshly chopped basil.  Tastes wonderful hot or cold.

For small bite-sized tarts, you could cut into 16 squares and do same.  You could also do one large “pizza” by not cutting the pastry sheet at all.

ENJOY, and Happy Cheese Lover’s Day!

Cheers & Hugs,



Healthy and Oh So Yummy Italian Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash 1

I know I often post yummy cookie and dessert recipes (and do I ever have an amazing Cinnamon Chip Brown Sugar Cookie recipe I will be posting later this week that I think has become my ALL TIME FAVORITE cookie ever!  Get READY cinnamon lovers!)…

But I had to share this amazingly delicious, totally healthy, guilt-free recipe for SQUASH (of all things squash!) that has even won over hubby and son despite it’s “healthiness!”  Yahoo!

spaghetti squash 2

It is spaghetti squash – Italian style, and it barely has any calories despite it’s full-flavor and filling-ness.  You can eat oodles of this and not feel a bit guilty!

spaghetti squash

You can serve it as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish with a protein.

We had it as a side with dry-rubbed pork tenderloin on the grill and a fresh salad for Sunday dinner.

Here’s the recipe as I make it.  Hope you will try, and let me know what you think.  I would love to hear how you make it too!

Italian Spaghetti Squash

  • Servings: approximately 6
  • Print

Ingredients:spaghetti squash

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp dried Italian Seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese to taste


  • Pierce whole squash 3-4 times with a fork, and microwave for approximately 12 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly until manageable to work with.
  • Cut squash in half and remove seeds.
  • Scrape squash with fork forming strands of “spaghetti,” and set aside.
  • In a large skillet saute chopped onion in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt until “sweated” out – 2-3 minutes.
  • Add minced garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add spaghetti squash and saute all together.
  • Add diced tomatoes and seasonings and saute all together.
  • Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!  It sure is great when you can find a recipe that is healthy, hearty, and full-flavored too!

Cheers & Hugs,

Homemade Margherita Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes

homemade margherita pizza with roasted heirloom tomatoes 1

The other day, our sweet friend and master gardener, Jack, gave us a generous box full of his amazingly beautiful heirloom tomatoes freshly picked from his garden.

Jacks Heirloom Tomatoes

Not only are they practically works of art how beautiful they are, but there is nothing like the taste of these gems!  (I do believe I would trade an entire box of chocolate covered salted caramels for one of these super sweet garden goodies!)

Roasting Heirloom tomatoes

When trying to decide what I could I make with them to give them the showcase they deserved (and eating one for breakfast while contemplating!), I decided to roast them up for fresh homemade Margherita pizza.

Roasting Heirloom tomatoes close up

If EVER I wished for scratch and sniff or “smell-a-computers,” I so wish I could share how my entire house smelled while garlic and fresh basil and thyme infused with these golden and crimson chunks of lusciousness.

roasted heirloom tomatoes

And I even decided to sacrifice one of them to ferment and save some seeds to see if I could master growing these in my own garden next year.

Fermenting heirloom tomato seeds

And then…..

After making some fresh dough, I rolled it out and placed a generous portion of these precious concentrated bursts of flavor atop.

homemade margherita pizza with roasted heirloom tomatoes

I topped that with slices of fresh Mozzarella, finely grated, salty Parmesan cheese, and coarsely chopped fresh basil right from the plant in the garden.

homemade margherita pizza with roasted heirloom tomatoes 2

And just for a bit of extra yumminess (and because I had some in the fridge), I topped it off with some chopped up thickly sliced smokey bacon ( O…. M….. G!!!)

homemade margherita pizza with roasted heirloom tomatoes slice.

This is the BEST pizza I ever ate in my life!  My son Nick took what was leftover for lunch, and I had the one solitary piece that was left in the refrigerator for breakfast the next day – stone COLD – and it was even better than I remembered the night before!

It had to be those tomatoes!  Thanks Jack!

Homemade Margherita Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes:homemade margherita pizza with roasted heirloom tomatoes

  • 6-8 large tomatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut tomatoes into quarters and spread in a baking dish.  Add garlic, basil, thyme, salt and pepper.  Drizzle all with olive oil.  Bake in 350 degree F oven for one hour.  Turn oven off and leave tomatoes in until ready to use.   (I roasted in the morning and let them set all day).


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.    Mix water and yeast until dissolved in a measuring cup or small bowl.  Combine both until well incorporated.  Turn dough out onto counter and knead for several minutes.  Place in oiled bowl covered with towel, and let rise until ready to use.  (It really doesn’t matter whether it is an hour or several.)


  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 lb Fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh coarsely chopped basil
  • Any other toppings you like (or not)

Punch down dough and divide into 2 balls.  Stretch and roll out onto two baking stones to form thin crust.
Top with Roasted tomatoes, cheeses, basil, and anything else you like.
Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes until crust is done and cheese is browned and bubbly.
Let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Cheers & Hugs,

Punny Father’s Day


My Father’s Day card for hubby was inspired by The Paper Players Clean & Simple (CAS) Summer Treats Theme (PP250).

pp250 1

I love this punny stamp set from WPlus9 , and I have featured it a couple of times in the past here and here.

pp250 inside

What better summer treat is there than fresh ripe juicy tomatoes, and what better summer celebration than to honor our Dads for Father’s Day.

I’m looking forward to sharing the day with the family.

Wishing you a day spent with those YOU love from YOUR head to YOUR toes!

Cheers & Happy Father’s Day Hugs,


Just Some Punny Tomatoes

Just some punny tomatoes for The PaperPlayers PP215 Sketch Challenge this week.

I just adore this punny saying and love adding googly eyes to these little tomatoes (#WPlus9 Punny Produce).  I made them in “heirloom” colors – and for some reason this card reminds me of The Brady Bunch (minus a row) 🙂

PP215 WPlus9 Punny Produce Tomatoes2

Here is the sketch to inspire us.


Happy Friday!

Cheers & Hugs,



I love you from my head tomatoes

wplus9 punny produce tomatoes

I love this punny saying, and had so much fun making this card.  I couldn’t wait to share how cute it turned out.

When I saw Challenge #85 on the MUSE Challenge site, I thought this card was a good match.

For the MUSE Challenge, participants are provided with a photo to be inspired from and are asked to explain their interpretation.

Here is the inspiration card:


My tomatoes are placed in a similar position as the flowers in the muse challenge card.  It is also similar in its Clean and Simple (CAS) approach with plenty of white/blank space surrounding the featured image.  The flowers have leaves – the tomatoes sport stems.  Both cards have a similar font for the sentiment.

My inspiration for this card came from seeing Maureen Merritt at Mama Mo Stamp’s cute version of adding googly eyes to the tomatoes.

wplus9 punny produce tomatoes2

As we approach the end of fresh tomato season here in Western Pennsylvania, I thought it only appropriate to share this punny produce…

and let you know I love you from my head   TO – MA – TOES!

Cheers & Hugs,


PS  #Writing101 to continue later due to work travel schedule

Our Song


It’s 11:11pm, and I am in a Holiday Inn about 4 1/2 hours from home in Eastern PA where I will be speaking at a conference tomorrow on “Using Social Media in Healthcare to Meet, Engage, and Retain Patients” for the Central PA Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).  I’m looking forward to it and hope it will be an engaging talk.

Before I turn in, I wanted to do my “homework.”  Today’s #Writing101 Assignment:  Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Music is such a wonderful expression of feelings and emotions, and I was able to quickly come up with three that came to mind immediately that represent important moments and people in my life.  (And I even have to add a bonus one!)

So here goes:

#1:  “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

When Marty turned 40 about 15 years ago (holy shmoly – where did that time go?!), I threw a surprise party for him.  At that party, I had this song played for us to dance to.  At that point, we had been married 17 years.   I was 19 and he was 23 when we married that April afternoon 32 years ago.  At the time, I thought the lyrics were so perfect and appropriate, and they are even more so now.  It has become “our song.”

Looks like we made it. Look how far we’ve come, my baby. We mighta took the long way. We knew we’d get there someday.
They said, “I bet they’ll never make it.” But just look at us holding on. We’re still together, still going strong.
You’re still the one I run to – the one that I belong to. You’re still the one I want for life.
You’re still the one that I love – the only one I dream of. You’re still the one I kiss good night.
Ain’t nothing better. We beat the odds together. I’m glad we didn’t listen. Look at what we would be missing.

#2: “What a Wonderful World” by Louie Armstrong

I have always loved this classic – the words, the instruments – Louie’s raspy passion when he sings it.  It always makes me feel so grateful – makes me realize the simple pleasures – makes me think to myself what a wonderful world…

So when Jake and Colleen were planning their wedding last summer, Jake asked me what song I would like to dance with him to for the Mother-Son Dance.  I immediately chose this one, and he immediately agreed to thinking it was a great choice.  (And those that know Jake know that is a monumental occasion)

During the weeks prior to the wedding, I listened to it over and over.

And over and over.

And over and over.

Until I could get through it without crying.

And the day of the wedding, when Jake and I danced to this beautiful song, all I could do was smile and be happy and hug and hold him tight.

But the even more awesome thing was when a year later at Jackie’s wedding (the oldest daughter of my BFF Jill), the DJ played this song, and Jake sought me out from another room and escorted me onto the dance floor to dance to “our song.”  This time I had tears in my eyes…

#3:  “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life” by Ronnie Milsap

I’ve shared this one before here at this post – The Journey Back to Daddy’s Girl.

This is the song I played over and over when I was reunited with my Dad four years ago.  For at least a year, neither he nor I could listen to it without crying tears of love and gratitude.

For our first Christmas together after 30+ years, I made a CD of songs for him, and this was the first one I put on it.

It will always be “our song.”

And for the bonus one I mentioned – way back in the beginning – I had to share this photo that was in Marty’s work newsletter, The Cranberry Township Staff Lines.  KUDOS to the witty writer who captioned this photo that sure made me one proud mudder!



He aint heavy – he’s my brother.

I forgot how much I love this song.

More tears……….

at life in between.

Cheers & Hugs,